Posts tagged ‘Copyright Issues’

TorrentFreak: Lawmakers Get Caught Parroting Copyright Lobby

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ernesto. Original post: at TorrentFreak

finlandThe Finnish constitution allows citizens to draft and submit legislative proposals for Parliament to vote on. All proposals that get 50,000 supporters within six months will be referred.

This also happened to a crowdsourced draft for a “fairer” copyright law which reached the required threshold last summer.

Termed “The Common Sense in Copyright Act,” the proposal aims to reduce penalties for copyright infringement, increase fair use, ban unfair clauses in recording contracts, and ease the ability for people to make copies of items they already own for backup and time-shifting purposes.

Last month the proposal was first presented in the Finnish Parliament. This piqued the interest of copyright lobby groups, who handed over a memo to Members of Parliament before the hearing, to inform them on their stance. Needless to say, the entertainment and media companies were rather critical of the public proposal.

What was more surprising though, is that many MPs repeated the rhetoric that was put forward in the pamphlet. Member of Parliament Kauko Tuuppainen went as far as parroting from the memo word-for-word, which was noticed by fellow MP Oras Tynkkynen, and later picked up by the Finnish press.

Below is a translation of Tuuppainen’s address in Parliament:

“The proposal could make Finland into a safe harbor for international piracy. Why? Because it encourages copyright infringement in many ways. One would be free to copy illegal content from the internet according to the proposal.” – MP Kauko Tuupainen in the initial hearing in Parliament.

Now compare this to the language used by the copyright groups in their memo:

“The proposal would make Finland into a safe harbor for international piracy. The proposal encourages copyright infringement in many ways. One would be free to copy illegal content from the internet according to the proposal.” – Joint announcement by the content and media industry organizations.

The two descriptions of the law are nearly identical, with several phrases being read word-for-word directly from the memo.

Open Ministry, the organization that coordinates the public law proposals, is not happy with the display of lobbyists’ influence. The whole idea of the public proposals is to hear the voice of the public and experts, but some MPs would rather parrot lobbyists’ opinions.

“Since copyright issues can be complex, we asked MPs to first hear what the experts have to say on the suggested changes, before shooting them down based on industry lobbyists objections and exaggerated propaganda. They did not,” Open Ministry Chairman Joonas Pekkanen says.

“The suggested changes are not that radical, since there is national room to maneuver within the boundaries set by the EU Copyright legislation,” he adds.

The above shows that the copyright lobby has a strong influence on lawmaking, and that in some cases the voice of the public can be easily countered by a handful of lobbyists. While it doesn’t leak out in public very often, it’s not a big secret that industry groups have a strong say in the laws that are enacted worldwide.

Just a few months ago it was revealed that 150 amendments to the EU data protection bill, submitted by Belgian Member of European Parliament Louis Michel, were copy-pasted from lobbyist paperwork.

For the Finnish “fairer” copyright law there is still hope though, but full transparency will be required. The next hearings are scheduled to be behind closed doors, but Open Ministry hopes that will change considering the recent events.

“There is hope that the committee chair, MP Raija Vahasalo, has the character to heed the request from professors and experts for full transparency and open this up for public hearings, workshops and debate – like the other citizen initiatives currently in Parliament,” Open Ministry’s Pekkanen says.

The proposal has now been referred to the Culture Committee, who will advise on whether to accept it later this year.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and anonymous VPN services.

TorrentFreak: Hollywood Writers Warn Against Draconian Anti-Piracy Measures

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ernesto. Original post: at TorrentFreak

writers-guildLast year the U.S. Government’s Internet Policy Task Force published a Green Paper signaling various copyright issues that need to be addressed.

Interested parties were invited to comment on the plans and many have done so. Thus far most responses have been rather predictable. The MPAA and RIAA, for example, vowed to keep high fines for pirates, and civil rights groups and copyright experts argued against it.

A few days ago the second round of comments was made public and many of the same arguments were repeated. However, there also was a submission from the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW), that is quite atypical to say the least.

The labor union represents thousands of screen writers in Hollywood and Southern California, many of whom work for the major movie and TV studios. In common with other people in the copyright industry, the writers are concerned by piracy, but they also warn that copyright shouldn’t trump the open Internet and free speech.

“While many of the most pirated works are created by WGAW members, we believe that copyright must be balanced with the preservation of an open, competitive Internet and protection of consumers’ rights to access the lawful content, services and applications of their choice,” WGAW writes.

“Achieving this balance requires the creation of guiding principles for the development of piracy detection and prevention tools in laws and industry agreements that do not infringe on free speech and the right to privacy,” the writers add.

Instead of calling to increase copyright enforcement, they suggest that current initiatives and legislation should be toned down.

For example, unlike the MPAA and RIAA the writers are against high statutory damages for copyright infringement. According to WGAW these high damages are unreasonable and unnecessary, citing the recent case against BitTorrent site isoHunt as an example.

“High statutory penalties are not only often unreasonable but unpayable. Recently, in its case against the torrent site isoHunt, the MPAA requested nearly $600 million in statutory damages despite admitting that $5 million at most would be enough to bankrupt the defendants. Whether a statutory penalty bankrupts infringers once or a hundred times over probably has little additional deterrent effect.”

The writers don’t agree with the Hollywood studios, who argue that high damages are needed as a deterrent. Instead, they warn that the current legislation stifles innovation as people may be hesitant to start innovating businesses, fearing that copyright holders may come after them.

“Rather, the threat of such large damages and the cost of litigation may deter further investment in web sites that serve as venues for independent production and allow users to upload content without gatekeeper permission for fear of liability.”

runThe same “chilling effect” applies to a proposal which would make streaming of copyrighted videos a felony. This could introduce jail sentences for people who watch or stream copyrighted material on YouTube, and prevent people from showing off their talent online.

“A broad interpretation of such a law could chill innovation through the use of copyrighted works in remixes, cover versions of songs and fair use. For example, artists like Justin Bieber have used YouTube videos of themselves singing covers as a way to gain exposure,” WGAW writes.

“Allowing felony charges for such activities could have a chilling effect on artists who use such independent forums and may harm sites that allow streaming of user-generated content by driving away contributors,” the writers add.

With regard to the DMCA the labor union suggests that the Government could setup a common template for takedown notices, making them easier for smaller copyright holders to issue and for websites to process. At the same time, DMCA abuse and mistakes should be prevented where possible.

Finally, the writers warn against the voluntary anti-piracy agreements that have emerged recently, including the six-strikes Copyright Alert System. WGAW fears that these initiatives are not always in the best interests of consumers.

“While these agreements have yet to prove their effectiveness in limiting copyright infringement, they have raised concerns regarding their lack of consumer protections,” they write.

One of the examples the writers give is that the notices can only be appealed after several warnings, and that the burden of proof lies on the alleged copyright infringers. In addition, the Copyright Alert System may hurt the availability of open Wi-Fi networks, as people can be held liable for the actions of others.

“Private agreements must not become a way of circumventing due process when an essential forum for free speech and commerce is at stake. If the government is going to endorse private agreements it should also promote transparency and comprehensive stakeholder participation in these initiatives,” WGAW writes.

With their submission the writers guild goes directly against the comments of the major Hollywood studios, which is a surprise. The comments are more in line with those from civil rights groups and academics, who will welcome an organization from the core of the copyright industry at their side.

All comments in response to the Green Paper have been published on the Internet Policy Task Force website.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and VPN services.

TorrentFreak: UK Considers Throwing Persistent Internet Pirates in Jail

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Andy. Original post: at TorrentFreak

parliamentThe second reading of the Intellectual Property Bill took place in the House of Commons this week, with parliament debating the finer details on matters covering design rights to the thorny issue of Internet piracy.

The main aim of the Bill, which was introduced late August 2013, is to bring aspects of the law pertaining to intellectual property up to date, with a view to creating greater clarity and accessibility for related industries.

From listening to the debate it’s clear that the politicians present see the Internet piracy problem from four main directions – pirate sites, Internet users, ISPs and search engines. It will come as little surprise that Google came in for a lot of criticism and perhaps even less of a surprise that many politicians seem to have completely absorbed the music industry’s line. They see the search giant as responsible for piracy but doing nothing.

Infringement and the Google ‘monopoly’

Gerry Sutcliffe MP said that he believed that “millions of complaints [to Google] have not been dealt with”, a point underlined by John Leech MP who recalled “the complacent attitude taken by [Google's] representatives to the whole issue, as though it had nothing to do with them and was not their problem.”

Worryingly for Google, Sutcliffe went on to escalate the matter beyond mere copyright issues, right up to the ‘M’ word.

google-bay“At some time, this Government must have a proper look at the almost monopoly status of this huge, multinational, non-UK business and ask whether it is good for our content industries. I have a sneaking feeling that it is not,” Sutcliffe said.

“I have seen the evidence from the British Phonographic Industry. It sent 50 million notices to Google asking it to take down links to illegal — I emphasize, illegal—sites. Google should not be doing that. What on earth is going on if it receives 50 million requests to take down links to illegal sites?

“It is time to call in the Competition Commission: we cannot continue to allow Google to be the gateway to content industries when they do them so much damage.”

Also speaking at the debate was Conservative MP Mike Weatherley, a former record label worker and Vice President of the Motion Picture Licensing Company. He was appointed last September as Prime Minister David Cameron’s Intellectual Property Advisor. Part of his brief is to look at enforcement issues surrounding online copyright and he certainly has some tough actions in mind.

Ten years in jail for Internet piracy

Weatherley noted that the Bill does not currently match penalties for online infringement with those available to punish infringers in the physical world. The point was detailed by John Leech MP, who called for the maximum penalty for digital infringement to be increased to 10 years’ imprisonment instead of the current two years.

“The discrepancy I mentioned is a source of great frustration. For example, the private prosecution by the Federation Against Copyright Theft of Anton Vickerman, who was making £50,000 a month from running a website [SurfTheChannel] that facilitated mass-scale copyright infringement, saw him convicted of conspiracy to defraud and sentenced to four years in prison,” Leech explained.

“This level of sentence would not have been possible if he had been prosecuted under copyright law, but FACT was able to prove conspiracy in his actions. Without proof of conspiracy, a serious criminal could have been left subject to a disproportionately low maximum penalty.”

In addition to bringing parity to the on-and-offline worlds, Weatherley said several other anti-piracy tactics should also be brought to the Bill.

Hold ISPs and search engines liable, throw persistent pirates in jail

weatherley“Another enforcement measure would be to follow the money and stop advertising and payment facilities on websites that host illegal content. Internet service providers and search engines would also be accountable if there was known to be criminality,” he said, highlighting an article he wrote for the World Intellectual Property Organization last December.

Weatherley, who we should not forget is the Prime Minister’s advisor on such matters, continued by revealing just how far he feels the government should go in dealing with the problem, starting with Internet disconnections and ending in a much darker place.

“Ultimately, we need to consider withdrawing internet rights from lawbreakers, along with imposing fines and, as a last resort, custodial sentences,” he told the debate.

Helen Goodman MP countered by stating that a line needs to be drawn between punishing the occasional downloader and those who run pirate sites.

“It is important that we distinguish between 14-year-olds in their bedrooms downloading two or three Justin Bieber tracks on to an iPod and people who make multi-billion pound businesses out of providing illegal material. It is not right to treat the two groups in the same way,” she said.

Clarifying his stance, Weatherley underlined that he did indeed mean prison should be an option not only for those running sites, but those who keep on downloading despite the warnings.

“My point was that, when we get the education right and people understand that stealing intellectual property is wrong, and when the industry has alternative downloading models, if we exhaust fines and other means of stopping persons downloading illegally, we must consider some sort of custodial sentence for persistent offenders and people who operate on a commercial scale,” he said.

The fact that Weatherley is prepared to rank persistent but non-commercial downloaders in the same way as those running commercial operations is a serious concern, especially when the end result for both is a custodial sentence. Whether that will be the current two years in prison or 10 will be a matter for future debate.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and VPN services.

TorrentFreak: Major Book Publishers Sue Hotfile For Copyright Infringement

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ernesto. Original post: at TorrentFreak

hfpLast month Hotfile and the MPAA ended their legal dispute with an $80 million settlement.

While the agreement left room for the file-hosting service to continue its operations by implementing a filtering mechanism, the company decided to throw in the towel and shut down.

However, that doesn’t mean the trouble is over for the defunct file-sharing site. Encouraged by Hollywood’s multi-million dollar victory, several of the world’s largest book publishers have now filed a lawsuit of their own against the site and its owner.

Pearson Education, Cengage Learning, John Wiley and Sons, Elsevier and McGraw-Hill lodged a complaint with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, accusing Hotfile of vicarious copyright infringement.

“Hotfile built a business off of infringement. The book publishers’ rights were massively infringed by the site and its operators. They should not be allowed to simply pocket their profits and walk away from the harm they caused,” a representative of the book publishers tells TorrentFreak.

The publishers have submitted 50 books as evidence, including ‘Office 2007 for Dummies’ and ‘C++ How to Program,’ for which they demand compensation. This means that Hotfile is facing up to $7.5 million in damages, if they are found guilty.

The complaint itself offers little new and repeats several arguments that were previously made in the MPAA vs. Hotfile case. Among other things, the publishers note that Hotfile knew that their service was widely used for copyright infringement.

“Hotfile was aware that the vast majority of the files on its service were copyrighted. It received millions of takedown notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, received correspondence from users and affiliates identifying copyrighted works and recognized that users were migrating to Hotfile for copyrighted works after competitor RapidShare was sued,” the complaint reads.

The publishers further accuse Hotfile of doing nothing to remove pirated files from its service, and claim that the filehoster lacked a repeat infringer policy, which the court previously saw as a requirement by the DMCA to qualify for safe harbor.

“Hotfile failed to ban with any consistency repeat infringers who accounted for a large percentage of the infringing files on the system. Despite receiving millions of DMCA notices, Hotfile did not track whether any of the uploads came from the same user,” the publishers note.

As a result of these lax policies, a relatively small group of persistent infringers was able to upload dozens of millions of files, the publishers say.

“In fact, by early 2011, nearly 25,000 users had accumulated more than three DMCA notices and many had received 100 or more. This group of uploaders was responsible for posting 50 million files, which amounts to 44 percent of the files on Hotfile,” the complaint states.

Taking into account Hotfile’s legal history, the publishers have a pretty strong case. This may in part explain why they chose to pursue this target. The question is, however, whether Hotfile still has funds left to pay any damages.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and VPN services.

TorrentFreak: EU Offers Public a Chance to Fix Copyright Law

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Andy. Original post: at TorrentFreak

europe-flagYear after year there are cries that copyright law is not only unfit for purpose in the digital age, but also heavily biased towards the entertainment industries and their corporate masters. Many feel that such laws are simply imposed but in reality the people can have their say, if only they can make their voices heard. That chance is here.

In 2014 the European Commission (EC) will decide whether to propose new copyright laws and to that end is inviting everyone to submit their views in a public consultation. No matter what stake an individual has in the future of copyright, from copyright holder to artist to regular Internet user, all responses are welcomed – and not just from EU citizens either.

“Note that you can [participate in the consultation] even if you do not live in Europe,” the EFF explains. “Just as United States laws can influence legislators in the rest of the world, so can European legislation have an impact on all Internet users: Both through our interactions with users and companies in the region and in how they can set new policy precedents.”

The consultation is some 80 questions long, which is enough to deter many people from participating. However, there is no requirement to answer all of the questions and people are able to respond to as many or as few as they like. That said, the open-ended nature of the questions means that it can sometimes seem difficult to see which relate to a particular issue. No need to worry though since help is at hand.

There are two great sources for simplifying the process. The first, at CopyWrongs.eu, provides a simple tick-box format which directs submitters to the questions that matter to them and filters out those that don’t. Respondents that are interested in file-sharing, DRM, content geo-blocking, infringement notices or industry-biased copyright law, for example, need only click a few boxes and fill in their experiences.

ameliaSecondly, Swedish Pirate Party politician and Member of the European Parliament Amelia Andersdotter has published a straightforward guide on how to respond to the consultation by directing respondents to the questions that matter to them.

“If you want to legalize file-sharing, you need to emphasize that sharing of culture and making private copies on the internet should be permissible when you answer questions 22-26,” Andersdotter explains. “You can also add additional comments on enabling the legally certain operation of torrent trackers in question 80.”

Those concerned with Fair Use should head to question 24 while those looking for action on liability for intermediaries should focus on questions 75 to 77. There are many other topics too, including copyright term limitations, exceptions, remixing and issues of importance to libraries, so every key aspect is addressed in some way.

Those happy to dive into the full 80 question consultation should head over to the European Commission’s site here, but whichever method people use to respond the important thing is to have a say.

“European copyright reform may greatly improve the free exchange of knowledge and culture, but it may also make things worse!” Andersdotter explains.

“Industry lobbyists have a lot more resources available to reply to public consultations. To have the voices of the people heard and to steer copyright reform in the right direction, it’s important to counter-balance industry’s replies with a lot of perspectives from users and creators.”

The deadline to do so is February 5th, just three weeks away….

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and VPN services.

TorrentFreak: Viewing Pirated Streams is Not Illegal, German Govt Says

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Andy. Original post: at TorrentFreak

Panic spread across Germany last month when an estimated 10,000 Internet users received threatening letters from a lawfirm acting on behalf of porn producers.

The alleged offenses apparently took place on RedTube, a streaming video site which from a technical viewpoint is not unlike YouTube. With no uploading taking place, how did the copyright holders obtain the IP addresses of alleged offenders when RedTube insists nothing was handed over?

With that still a mystery and RedTube outraged at this attack on their users, in December the company obtained an injunction to halt the trolls in their tracks. However, an important question still remained unanswered. Is merely viewing a copyrighted stream without permission illegal under current law?

With the controversy storming on the question was posed to the German Government and the Ministry of Justice has just delivered its opinion. The Ministry concludes that the mere viewing of a copyrighted stream without permission is not in itself an act of copyright infringement.

This opinion puts the Government completely at odds with the adult companies behind the thousands of cash settlement letters sent out last year. It also draws a line in the sand between streaming (legal) and regular downloads (illegal).

According to the Ministry of Justice’s opinion the watching of illicit movies on a browser-based streaming site now appears to be permissible (temporary copy), whereas downloading a movie which is stored on a hard drive for later viewing (reproduction) remains illegal.

However, the question of streaming legality is one yet to be decided in Germany’s highest court, and according to the Government the definitive ruling will arrive from outside its borders.

“Whether the use of streaming offerings constitutes a reproduction or violates the rights of authors and holders of related rights has not yet been clarified by the supreme court,” the Ministry told Parliament, adding that the question will ultimately be answered by the European Court of Justice.

In the meantime the announcement will be welcomed by thousands of RedTube users who should be further emboldened not to hand over their hard earned cash.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and VPN services.

TorrentFreak: Court: ISP Subscribers Not Liable For Pirating Family Members

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Andy. Original post: at TorrentFreak

download-keyboardCopyright holders – especially those conducting troll-like operations – would like to create the impression that everything that happens on an Internet connection is the bill payer’s responsibility.

This notion, if it were true, would make their lives very simple. By holding the Internet subscriber responsible, infringement ‘fines’ could be sent to households safe in the knowledge that the person’s name they have on file could not escape liability.

Fortunately this is not the case in most Western legal systems which generally require the actual infringer to be held responsible, unless the bill payer was complicit in some way. While the system in Germany is tougher than most, with bill payers often being held responsible for everyone in their household (both children and adults), a new legal ruling published yesterday changes the playing field.

The ruling was published by the Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof / BGH), the supreme court in all matters of civil and criminal law. It concludes a matter dating back to 2006 brought by several leading recording labels against an account holder said to have shared a total of 3,749 songs online.

The labels sent a letter to the man, a serving police officer who shared a home with his spouse and stepson, alleging infringement and talking about an amount of 400,000 euros in damages but offering a settlement value of around 3,400 euros.

The account holder and target of the settlement demand refused to pay on the basis he had not carried out any infringements. However, speaking with the police, his 20-year-old stepson admitting he had downloaded the music.

The case proceeded to the district court which ruled in the labels’ favor. It held that the account holder was responsible for the infringements carried out by the 20-year-old on the basis that when he gave his stepson Internet access he should have “educated” him on the issue of illegal file-sharing and forbidden him from engaging in it, even though he had no reason to believe any was being carried out. The court ordered the defendant to pay the labels 2,841 euros.

After traversing the legal system the Federal Court of Justice has now quashed the ‘guilty’ verdict and totally dismissed the action. The judgment published yesterday held that when an account holder allows adult family members to use his or her Internet connection, those adults are responsible for their own actions when online and do not have to be ‘educated’ by the person paying the bill.

If, however, the account holder is made aware that infringements may have been carried out (after receiving a warning letter for example), he or she is then obliged to take measures to ensure that further infringements are prevented.

“Since the Court of Appeal found no evidence that the account holder knew that his adult stepson had abused the Internet for illegal participation in file-sharing networks, he is not liable [for his stepson's actions],” the judgment reads.

Lawyer Christian Solmecke of the Wilde Beuger Solmecke lawfirm describes the Court’s decision as an important landmark ruling, but feels opportunities were missed and questions remain.

“This is without doubt a very important decision in file sharing. However, there remains a large uncertainty that affects industry and business owners,” Solmecke says.

“The decision of the Supreme Court is good and right. Too bad, however, that the Supreme Court [has not covered the] complicated issues of evidence in the file sharing process. These are highly controversial and required a clear case,” he concludes.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and VPN services.

TorrentFreak: The Simpsons Cleverly Cover The Pirate Bay & Anti-Piracy Enforcement

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Andy. Original post: at TorrentFreak

The Simpsons is rightfully considered one of the greatest animated shows to ever grace the airwaves and last night’s “Steal This Episode” will do nothing to change that perception. It covered the issues generated by illegal downloading and was a shining example of how far the show’s creators are prepared to go when covering a topic.

If you don’t want a few spoilers as you intend to watch later, please stop reading now.

The show begins with Homer’s co-workers gathered around the watercooler discussing Radioactive Man’s latest movie. Homer hasn’t seen it and he gets upset that no matter where he goes people are discussing how great it is. Desperate to see the movie, Homer took the entire family to the theater. Sadly it cost a fortune and was riddled with advertising.

“If I wanted to pay for commercials I can’t skip i’d sign up for Hulu Plus,” he complained while launching into a rant that got him ejected from the theater.

Seeing his father’s sadness, Bart taught Homer how to illegally download from the best pirate website around – The Bootleg Bay. His precise instructions were continually interrupted by a PSA-style voiceover explaining how Fox does not endorse piracy.

Bootleg

Back at work, Homer walked in on another water-cooler chat about the latest Bond movie. He hadn’t seen that either but when his colleagues told him to go the theater to see it, he explained that wouldn’t be necessary.

“All I need to see this movie is a laptop and a website based in a country that is really just an offshore oil platform,” Homer said.

This is a delightful reference to The Pirate Bay planning to buy the island nation of Sealand way back in 2007. Groening certainly does his homework.

After showing his colleagues the Bond movie on his laptop, one commented that it was a great experience that combined the fun of the theater with the thrill of stealing. Another said that what the movie industry needs to understand is that the people have needs – brand new, big budget entertainment, in their homes – for nothing. It’s clear that Matt Groening is as happy as ever to take shots at both sides.

What followed was an interesting parallel. Many times in the past The Pirate Bay has made it clear that its mission is to offer ‘culture’ to all. In the show Homer does something similar by opening his own free mini theater for the people of Springfield using movies downloaded from The Bootleg Bay.

However, when Marge later discovered that she’d been watching a pirate movie, she sent a check to Hollywood to pay for the ticket she never bought. This set off a chain of events which saw Homer investigated by the FBI. The size of the movie piracy department next to the drug enforcement office is a clear nod to the resources being expended on piracy-related issues.

FBIPiracy

Inside the FBI’s movie piracy department was a large bustling nerve center with agents sitting at workstations and a world map glowing with pirate locations. The FBI were clearly going to put a lot of resources into tracking Homer down.

NoToTorrents

Although most will probably miss it, the next scene almost certainly referenced another important event in file-sharing history. Homer presented a downloaded copy of Cosmic Wars VII, a movie which was clearly meant to be Star Wars. He noted that the copy he was about to show was a leaked version “direct from the computer of an angry editor at a special effects house.”

This inclusion is very interesting. Back in 2005, file-sharing site EliteTorrents was subjected to a massive FBI raid after it offered for download an unfinished ‘workprint’ version of Star Wars Episode III which had obviously originated from an industry pre-production source. While several staff members at Elite were all jailed, no one was ever prosecuted for the actual leak, something which remains highly suspicious to this day.

Before long though, a Kim Dotcom-style raid was being carried out against the animated pirate cinema, complete with plenty of armed officers seeking to intimidate “and stage the prison suicide” of Homer Simpson. He’s taken away to prison but things didn’t go quite to plan, with Homer quickly becoming a fugitive. Desperate for sanctuary he flees to the only place in America that doesn’t care about Internet piracy laws – the Swedish consulate.

consulate

“The people of Sweden believe that all movies should be shared freely,” explained Lisa to a confused Marge.

Eventually Homer hands himself over to the many FBI agents massing outside and, like pretty much all big file-sharing cases in the US, later finds himself up in court to answer for his sins.

Court

Overall the episode is a clever one that highlights both sides of the debate. It makes clear that big budget content needs to have a funding mechanism, but even more apparent is the overblown response to the issue encouraged by Hollywood and executed by law enforcement.

Definitely one to watch – which raises another issue of course. Right at the start of the episode Homer found himself pirating movies because the official experience fell short of his expectations. Equally there will be plenty of people wanting to watch this episode who will have no local access to the show. It’s a self perpetuating cycle that cannot be solved with law enforcement.

The release of the episode follows a Fox lawsuit and a $10.5m judgment against a Canadian who ran a Simpsons download portal. Coincidence or….?

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and VPN services.

TorrentFreak: Simpsons Pirate Ordered to Pay Fox $10.5 Million in Damages

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Andy. Original post: at TorrentFreak

In the wake of the isoHunt settlement in October, TorrentFreak reported on another big copyright infringement case that had flown entirely under the radar.

It involved a pair of now-shuttered websites – Watch The Simpsons Online (WTOS) and Watch Family Guy Online, launched 2008 and 2009 respectively. Both websites gave visitors the chance to watch episodes of the named TV shows via embedded web players utilizing external video sources. Neither site hosted infringing content.

Together the sites had around 87 million visitors during their lifetimes and as a result attracted the unwanted attention of Fox. During 2008, WTSO was targeted several times and had to keep shifting hosts and at one stage had its domain seized following a WIPO dispute. In 2010 the MPAA began filing its own cease and desists.

Although the sites continued to operate without further major incident, it was the calm before the storm. Early October 2013, Fox filed a copyright infringement lawsuit at the Federal Court of Canada, alongside requests to keep its contents secret pending a raid on the site operator’s home. That was carried out October 9.

Simpsons

With the site admin unwilling to fight Fox in an expensive case he knew he could not win, matters proceeded without him. Just before Christmas the defendant found out the case had been concluded in his absence.

Details sent to TorrentFreak by Timothy Lowman, a lawyer at the Sim & McBurney lawfirm which handled the case for Fox, spells out the extent of the judgment.

“The Judgment awards $10 million [CAD] for statutory damages, $500,000 for punitive damages and fixed/assessed solicitor client costs of $78.573.25 (in addition to an earlier cost award of $107,665.55),” Lowman explains.

“The significant judgement in this case points up the risk courted by those who engage in internet piracy, in particular for commercial purposes. The Federal Court considers that such activities warrant significant assessments of statutory damages, in this case $13,888.88 per work infringed, and that such misconduct is also deserving of substantial awards of punitive damages to achieve the goal of punishment and deterrence of the offense of copyright infringement,” he concludes.

According to Lowman the statutory damages and punitive damages awards in this judgment are the largest given to date by the Federal Court of Canada and according to the person expected to pay them, the admin formerly known as ‘Joecool6101′, the amount is simply unmanageable. He cannot pay but Fox are pressing ahead anyway.

“Fox are pursing for the money and they are doing so as hard as they possibly can. They’ve ruined my life and continue to do so as long as they don’t leave me and my family alone. As it’s been referenced by a lawyer: ‘they are killing a fly with a nuke’,” he told TorrentFreak.

“This experience was the worst thing I could possibly imagine, Fox takes no mercy when destroying your life as you once knew it and then begins to drag your new life down as much as possible as well. I don’t wish this upon anyone and simply wish the dinosaurs would just give their consumers what they want — which is to be able to stream their videos online easy, fast, worldwide.”

The judgment also forbids JoeCool from infringing Fox’s copyrights in future, but rest assured there will be others to fill the gap – unless Fox takes his advice of course.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and VPN services.

TorrentFreak: Italy’s SOPA Ranked Most Important IP Legislation of 2013

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Andy. Original post: at TorrentFreak

Italy has often been accused of not doing enough to combat copyright infringement but if things go to plan for the copyright lobby, 2014 will be a very interesting one indeed.

Earlier this year AGCOM, Italy’s independent Electronic Communications Authority, drafted new regulations that would allow it to order a domain seizure or ISP blockade of any site that fails to remove infringing content in a timely manner. The process, which has just been voted in by the regulator and will begin in April, has a couple of controversial tricks up its sleeve.

Unlike similar bodies in almost every Western country, AGCOM can not only order this kind of action without obtaining a court order, but obtained its powers to do so through an administrative process that wasn’t heard in Parliament. The scale and nature of the regulation has piqued the interest of IP Kitten, an industry-respected copyright blog that has declared it the most important piece of copyright-related legislation of 2013.

“Probably the most important piece of legislation is not really a law, but rather a regulation: the Regulation on Online Copyright Enforcement by AGCOM,” IP Kitten writes.

“It is important because for the first time in Italy an administrative authority (as is AGCOM) has vested itself with powers (to grant injunctions) which traditionally have fallen within the competence of courts. Overall, the Italian experiment is not only likely to be looked at with either interest or fear by other Member States, but also inform debate around forthcoming review of the InfoSoc and Enforcement Directives.”

Fulvio Sarzana, a lawyer with the Sarzana and Partners law firm, has worked with many sites to lift blocking orders under existing Italian law. He is concerned by the new regulations and how they came to pass.

“AGCOM will order removal without any kind of judicial review. ISPs, consumers, libertarians and experts have vigorously contested AGCOM’s proposal because it could affect freedom of speech as well as business rights. In particular, they challenge the modality whereby the Italian regulator would supervise and tackle copyright infringements on the Internet by way of orders of removal and blocking,” Sarzana told TorrentFreak.

Dissent is also being heard from those in power, both locally and further afield, the lawyer says.

“Various members of the Italian Parliament (including the president of the Chamber Laura Boldrini) have questioned the competence of AGCOM in regulating this matter and observed that only the legislator, not the regulator, should fix limits and guarantees of civil freedoms. The Foreign Affairs Minister Emma Bonino has also criticized the regulator’s initiative,” Sarzana adds, noting that the regulation has also attracted the UN’s attention.

“While visiting Italy to report on the state of freedom of expression in the country, Frank La Rue, the UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, expressed his reservations against the new regulatory framework. La Rue, echoing the words of Italian academics and civil libertarians, noted that ‘all norms regulating constitutional rights, in particular freedom of expression, should be approved by the Parliament’,” he concludes.

The new regulations come into force in April so we won’t have to wait too long to see what the system produces and whether rightsholders decide to take full advantage. At this point that seems very likely indeed.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and VPN services.

TorrentFreak: Major Recording Labels Prepare to Sue Russia’s Facebook

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Andy. Original post: at TorrentFreak

For several years, vKontakte, Russia’s social networking giant, has been marked as a piracy enabler by rightsholders and even the U.S. Government.

In several Special 301 Reports published by the United States Trade Representative, Russia’s Facebook equivalent has been criticized for the huge quantities of unauthorized media it hosts and labeled a “notorious market”, a term usually reserved for piracy’s apparent worst-of-the-worst.

The problem stems from the fact that vKontakte allows its tens of millions of users to upload anything from movies and TV shows to their entire music collections. This content then becomes available for anyone to enjoy, from members of the site to complete outsiders. Many of the big, free MP3 download sites on the web are powered by MP3s pulled from vKontakte, so this is not just a Russian issue.

In response to the complaints, earlier this year the company confirmed it had deployed fingerprinting technology, similar to YouTube’s Content ID. Whether this would be enough to appease rightsholders would remain to be seen, but in a statement this week the head of Russia’s telecoms regulator Roskomnadzor said the site’s actions should be enough to remove it from the USTR’s list.

“VKontakte is now in active dialog with all the rights owners,” Alexander Zharov said. “It is my hope that, given the progress in their relations with the owners, VKontakte will be excluded from the 301 list.”

So good news for vKontakte then? Well, not so fast. Let’s not forget that it’s the Hollywood studios and major recording labels that provide the fuel for the Special 301 Report and if they aren’t happy, the USTR isn’t going to be happy either. And all the signs suggest that they are far from content.

In fact, according to reports in Russian media this morning, the major labels are getting ready to take vKontakte on in the traditional way – via lawsuit.

National Federation of the Music Industry chief Leonid Agronov says that Sony, Universal, EMI, Warner and other rights owners have run out of patience and will sue the social network after the holiday period is over.

“This year, we have tried all the civilized ways of influencing the state, society and the Internet industry. Next year we will be much more aggressive and brazen. We have spent four years trying to normalize the situation to somehow move piracy beyond the law,” he said.

NFMI members are said to be preparing to sue in the St. Petersburg Court of Arbitration in an attempt to have at least six thousand pieces of music removed from vKontakte, including works from Beyonce, 50 Cent, Eminem, Jay-Z, Madonna, Skrillex, Linkin Park, Metallica and Pink Floyd.

Agronov said that the labels have tried to negotiate with the site in order for it to begin paying for the music it hosts with a suggestion it shifts those costs to its users, but apparently vKontakte is interested in neither. It nevertheless profits from advertising while its users listen to unauthorized music, he added.

According to Izvestia, the legal action could take up to a couple of months or even a couple of years, depending on the determination of each side.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and VPN services.

TorrentFreak: IP Advisor: Hold ISPs Responsible For Facilitating Piracy

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Andy. Original post: at TorrentFreak

Early September UK Prime Minister David Cameron appointed a brand new intellectual property advisor.

Conservative MP Mike Weatherley, a former record label worker and Vice President of the Motion Picture Licensing Company, began with a brief to focus on intellectual property enforcement issues relating to the creative industries.

With the appointment of Weatherley, a chartered accountant and former finance director of record producer Pete Waterman’s empire, there can be little doubt that the Government is looking to tighten things up on the IP front.

Writing for the World Intellectual Property Organization magazine, the 56-year-old says that he faces a key question of whether the solution to the piracy problem requires government and/or industry involvement, or a partnership of the two.

Weatherley begins by touching on the complex issue of content licensing and the domestic issues raised by the Hargreaves Review. However, he soon moves on to what many believe is one of the main drivers of infringement over the past decade – a failure by content distributors to move forward with technology.

“At the end of the day, the creative industry must take responsibility for its failure to keep pace with the digital age. Technology will always open up new ways to access content. If creators do not begin to embrace these technologies they will lose out, and by default, the market will be dictated by ‘open rights’ interest groups. The creative industry alone is responsible for not evolving fast enough. The music industry, for example, has spent years saying ‘no’ instead of ‘how?’,” Weatherley says.

Interestingly, the MP also says that the creative industries are very good at talking to themselves but notes they are doing little to educate the public and are even “losing the propaganda war.”

“In 2010, at the UN Worldwide Internet Governance Forum in Vilnius (Lithuania) it was shocking to see that no one from either industry or government was present to make a case for supporting the protection of IP rights. The Pirate Party, however, was there in full force arguing that all content should be made available for free,” Weatherley notes.

Echoing growing sentiments of many in the digital domain, the MP says that the “efficient and plausible way forward” would see the industry not only educating consumers but meeting their demands by offering “simple, affordable and legal access” to copyright-protected works.

“Proponents of piracy say downloading content legally is too complicated. Industry, therefore, needs to find innovative ways to ensure that content is easily available and in so doing make piracy a less attractive option. We need to let go of old dogma and identify and further develop new, workable solutions, Weatherley says.

But what if education plus fresh and innovative offerings can’t do the job of seriously reducing copyright infringement? Legislation can, it seems.

“Government must back up industry by putting the necessary enforcement mechanisms into place. This would include holding Internet Service Providers responsible if they knowingly facilitate illegal downloading practices and do not take steps to stop this form of piracy,” the MP states.

The issue of liability for third-party infringement has been well-trodden in the past 12 months, with both the music and movie industries taking the leading ISPs to the High Court in order to hold them responsible for the unauthorized file-sharing of their customers.

The evidence of subscriber infringement on sites such as The Pirate Bay is now considered enough to put ISPs on notice that they need to block sites to stop it. The big question now is what Weatherley envisions on the legislative front that isn’t already covered.

Will ISPs be expected to warn and disconnect infringing customers in order to maintain their safe harbor? Or perhaps actively blocking a wider range of sites once wide-scale infringement is established will be acceptable? A combination of the two might seal the deal but all options are very much political hot potatoes.

Time will tell, but in the meantime Weatherley signs off with a note to the industry.

“The creative sector needs to show greater flexibility and to be part of the solution,” he concludes.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and VPN services.

TorrentFreak: Iron Maiden Tracks Down Pirates…. And Gives Them Concerts? (Updated)

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ernesto. Original post: at TorrentFreak

iron-maidenOver the past several years numerous studies have shown that on average file-sharers spend more money on legal purchases, including concert tickets and merchandise.

The most logical explanation for this finding is that “pirates” are more engaged than those who don’t share, and that they complement their legal purchases with unauthorized downloads.

This means that unauthorized file-sharers are in fact the music industry’s best customers. So, instead of hunting down these pirates for lawsuits, it may be more rewarding to play for them.

The English heavy metal band Iron Maiden is reportedly doing just that. The veteran musicians use the services of music analytics company Musicmetric which allows them to see where their albums are most pirated.

“If you know what drives engagement you can maximize the value of your fan base. Artists could say ‘we’re getting pirated here, let’s do something about it’, or ‘we’re popular here, let’s play a show’,” Gregory Mead, CEO and co-founder of Musicmetric told Cite.

Instead of suing these unauthorized file-sharers, the band used the information as input for its tours, and not without success.

“Maiden have been rather successful in turning free file-sharing into fee-paying fans,” Mead said.

The overview below, for example, shows that Iron Maiden is most popular among Brazilian pirates with 463,467 downloads in recent years. The band is also relatively popular in Chile with 1,300 downloads per 100,000 Internet users, which totals 70,932 downloads.

Iron Maiden’s popularity on BitTorrent (large)

mms

Iron Maiden’s recent tour had a heavy focus on South America, where the band has a lot of Twitter followers and unauthorized downloads. The band played in Paraguay for the first time, for example, and concerts were sold out throughout the region.

Musicmetric suggests that the file-sharing data helped Iron Maiden turn these pirates into paying customers, simply by heading over there and playing for them. It’s impossible to download the true experience of a live concert, so the chances are high that several pirates will turn up.

“If you engage with fans, there is a chance to turn a percentage into paying customers. You can see that through various bands using the BitTorrent network in a legal way to share content,” Mead says.

It’s refreshing to see that instead of hunting down pirates for lawsuits, file-sharing data is being used by artists to plan their gigs. After all, it is much more rewarding to play for your fans than to try to bankrupt them in court.

Update: The Cite report suggested that Iron Maiden used the analytics to plan their concerts, however, this claim remains unsubstantiated. TorrentFreak contacted Musicmetric before publication but we were unable to get a comment in time as they were out of the office for a few days.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and VPN services.

TorrentFreak: Court: 30,000 Movie Piracy Threats Could Have No Legal Basis

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Andy. Original post: at TorrentFreak

Threatening letters from copyright trolls usually take pretty much the same format – “You’ve downloaded or shared our content using BitTorrent networks and for that we will take you to court. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. For the payment of a few hundred to a few thousand dollars or euros, we can make this all go away.”

Earlier this month, however, there was a new twist to this awful business. Many thousands of individuals began receiving letters from German lawfirm U & C acting on behalf of a Swiss company called The Archive AG. Their claim was that letter recipients had watched several adult titles on the hugely popular adult streaming site RedTube.

Just to put things into perspective, that’s like watching a clip on YouTube and someone coming along with a demand that you pay them cash – a very worrying development indeed.

Wilde Beuger Solmecke, a law firm that specializes in defending Internet users from the threats of copyright trolls, has been working hard on the case and estimates that around 30,000 people have received these demands.

All along the lawfirm has insisted that there is no legal basis for the threats and now, quite amazingly, the court that has been dealing with the case has admitted there may have been a major screw up.

After receiving at least 50 full complaints, the Cologne Regional Court has been reexamining the entire process and now, according to lawyer Christian Solmecke, the Court has made a “spectacular” turnaround.

“Apparently, some of the judges who issued the information decisions now – after knowing the complete situation – have changed their mind (or for the first time formed a complete opinion) and decided that streaming is no longer illegal,” Solmecke explains.

If that is indeed the case, the Court should never have granted The Archive AG’s request to obtain the real-life identities of the RedTube visitors, not least since they had broken no laws. Solmecke says if the Court stands by its ‘new’ interpretation of relevant copyright law (private copying and temporary acts of copying) then visitors to streaming sites should be able to relax once more.

“There are many indications that the judges believe streaming – whether from a legitimate or an unlawful platform – should always regarded as lawful,” Solmecke says.

“For those concerned, the application of this standard would have the advantage that they will not have to worry about the legality of a platform in the future. We have held this legal opinion for a long time.”

The Cologne Regional Court’s decision will be welcomed by all letter recipients but for the Court’s next move we shall have to wait until at least January. The hope is that all 30,000 individuals won’t have to pay a penny and that copyright troll heads will roll. Definitely one to watch.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and VPN services.

TorrentFreak: MPAA Studios Sent 25 Million DMCAs in Six Months, Only Eight Were Contested

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Andy. Original post: at TorrentFreak

mpaa-logoAccording to a new report from the Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property at the George Mason University School of Law, the notice and takedown provisions of the DMCA are no longer doing their job as intended.

The report, titled The Failure of the DMCA Notice and Takedown System: A Twentieth Century Solution to a Twenty-First Century Problem, states that the 15-year-old legislation’s Section 512, originally intended as an emergency measure to get content taken down quickly, is now “straining under the weight of a blizzard of notices, as copyright owners struggle to abate the availability of infringing copies of their most highly valued works.”

There can be little doubt that sites and service providers, especially those that deal with user-uploaded or generated content, are today having to deal with more complaints than ever before. While the RIAA and MPAA have always been in gear, over the past couple of years thousands of copyright holders have become aware of their right to send tens, hundreds or thousands of notices each month in order to have unauthorized content (or links to that content) taken down.

But as the report points out, it’s a largely unproductive task.

“Despite all the notice, there is precious little ‘takedown’ to show for it. Unless a site employs some sort of content filtering technology, the same content typically re-appears within hours after it is removed,” author Bruce Boyden writes.

“As a result, this is a system that makes no one happy. Copyright owners are unhappy with the amount of expense and effort the system requires for such paltry results. Online services are unhappy with the burden of having to process and respond to all of those notices. Users are unhappy with inconsistent enforcement and occasional, inevitable mistakes.”

CPIP

As highlighted in the shutdown of file-hosting service Hotfile this week, filtering is something that the MPAA, RIAA and even the courts are interested in if the circumstances are right. The supposed $80m settlement with a filtering condition imposed was designed to send a clear message to US-based hosting and linking companies, over and above their established DMCA obligations.

Nevertheless, in the meantime it’s largely business as usual. Copyright holders are sending out millions of notices every month in an attempt to stem the tide, many of those to search engines such as Google and Bing. Google’s Transparency report reveals all of the copyright takedown notices the search engine receives every month from a wide range of rightsholders, but discovering the numbers sent to sites in general is an almost impossible task.

What today’s brief reveals, however, is that the notices sent to search engines are only half the story. The report contains details of the notices the MPAA studios sent in total during a six month period this year.

Starting in March 2013 the Hollywood studios sent takedowns for a total of 5.13 million URLs. Just over 2.7 million URLs were sent to search engines such as Google and Bing while 2.36 million were sent to the sites carrying or indexing the infringing content.

During April the the movie studios sent less notices – around 4.83 million – with the lion’s share going to search engines (2.85 million) and the remainder (1.98 million) being sent to sites.

In May the quantity of overall URLs dropped again to 3.46 million URLs, however the number of takedowns being sent to sites exceeded those sent to search engines, 2.16 million versus 1.3 million.

June saw a total of 3.37 million notices issued with around 400,000 more takedowns going to sites than search engines. By July total takedowns were back up to 4 million URLs, 23.4 million to sites and 1.65 million to Google and friends. Just over 4.4 million were sent in August, with just under 600,000 more notices going to sites than search engines.

DMCA

During the total six month period (March to August 2013), the MPAA studios sent takedown notices for 25.23 million URLs, 13.23 million to sites and 11.99 million to search engines.

It should be noted that the report doesn’t indicate whether the content taken down from search engines is the same as that being taken down from sites, but it should be presumed that there is some, possibly a lot, of duplication. There is also no indication of the success of the notices sent to sites, although Google and Bing will have complied on most occasions.

Finally, of particular interest is the amount of opposition Hollywood encountered when applying for the URLs to be taken down. According to the studios just eight of their DMCA takedown notices were contested with DMCA counter-notices. That doesn’t suggest that in excess of 25.2 million were entirely accurate, but it does show that in the main there is no appetite to have links restored on any grounds.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and VPN services.

TorrentFreak: Court: Open Source Project Liable For 3rd Party DRM-Busting Coding

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Andy. Original post: at TorrentFreak

One of the most popular multi-purpose downloading tools on the web today is JDownloader, a Java-based tool compatible with Windows, Linux and Mac. The software is able to download video files, files from file-hosting sites, and extract them all once completed.

Back in June the software became embroiled in court proceedings over a specific feature present in an unofficial beta of JDownloader2 which enabled the downloading of RTMPE video streams on top of existing RTMP. It wasn’t created by AppWork themselves but was a contribution from an open source developer who had worked on the project before.

Since the plug-in handled encrypted streams the Hamburg Regional Court decided that this represented a circumvention of an “effective technological measure” under Section 95a of Germany’s Copyright Act. As a result the Court issued a preliminary injunction against JDownloader2 and threatened its makers, Appwork, with a 250,000 euro fine for “production, distribution and possession” of an ‘illegal’ piece of software.

Appwork found out about the functionality of the plug-in months before the court case and had already disabled it, but the judgment had the potential to have a chilling effect on open source development.

“Are developers really liable if another developer in the community commits code that might be protected somewhere in a software patent? How are Open Source communities supposed to check? What if a program that is included in another Open Source program makes an update that adds illegal functionality?” the company told TorrentFreak at the time.

To find out, Appwork filed an appeal and this week the project received the decision of the court. It was bad news not only for the company but also the open source community in general.

“In the eyes of the judges, our company ‘made the open source contributions our own’ mostly by having a copyright sign in the info dialogue,” Appworks’ Alex informs TorrentFreak.

“Therefore we are liable and must actively screen every code contribution and/or have protective mechanisms in place against someone committing something that might be illegal.”

Alex says that the decision is “worrisome” for the open source community and has the potential to deter people from getting involved in such projects when they discover they must take responsibility for the work of others.

“It doesn’t matter if the project owner did not do anything (i.e. write any line of code) or even if the project owner knows about anything illegal being committed,” Alex says.

“In our case, even when we didn’t even know about the functionality, which was part of an open source binary one of our open source developers used (rtmpdump), we were held liable anyway. Not from the moment on that we got notified about it, but even before,” he explains.

“This means that if any company or individual wants to use an open (or closed) source binary (commercial or not), they are liable for it if it contains any illegal functions. This practically means they are obligated to check every single line of code, which is almost impossible for smaller projects.”

Appwork are looking into the details of the judgment and are currently considering their options for appeal.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and VPN services.

TorrentFreak: MPAA Wants Up to $500 Million in Damages from Hotfile

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ernesto. Original post: at TorrentFreak

hotfileFor more than two years Hotfile and the MPAA have been battling it out in court and this month the case will reach its climax

Next week marks the start of a trial in which a jury will be asked to decide how much in damages Hotfile must pay the movie studios. The trial is limited in scope, however, as the movie studios already won summary judgment on the issues of DMCA defense and vicarious liability.

With only a few days to go both parties have now reached agreement on the number of copyrighted works that will be part of the trial. Initially the movie studios wanted to include 3,808 movies and TV-shows, but this has now been reduced to 3,448.

“Defendants acknowledge and concede that Plaintiffs’ copyrights in all 3,448 of the Remaining Works in Suit were directly infringed by users of the Hotfile system, for which Defendants are vicariously liable, and for which Plaintiffs are entitled to recover statutory damages,” the joint stipulation reads.

The full list of pirated files includes work from all MPAA members except Sony Pictures. Among the pirated files are several episodes of popular TV-shows including Glee, Heroes, Lost, Prison Break, Friends and Fringe, as well as the movies The Karate Kid, The Bourne Identity, Bambi and The Matrix.

For each of these titles the jury or court can award a fine between $750 and $150,000. This means that Hotfile could face damages as high as half a billion dollars, $517,200,000 to be precise.

MPAA’s list of infringed files

evid

The stipulation further clarifies that Hotfile has waived all affirmative defenses against its liability for direct copyright infringement. The file-hosting service does, however, reserve the right to argue that its users were “space shifting” files that are not included in the suit, which could be seen as fair use.

“Defendants reserve their right to argue that files on the Hotfile system [other than the 3,448 files in suit] may have been ‘space shifted’ by Hotfile users. Plaintiffs reserve their right to argue the contrary, including that ‘space shifting’ is neither a relevant nor legally viable theory of fair use with respect to any copyrighted files on the Hotfile system,” the stipulation reads.

Aside from determining how much Hotfile owes the major movie studios, the jury will also have to decide on Warner Bros’ potential DMCA abuse.

Hotfile previously counter-sued Warner and alleged that after granting access to its systems the studio wrongfully took down hundreds of files including games demos and Open Source software without holding the copyrights to them. Hotfile seeks compensation for these false takedowns and the damage they have done to the company.

To the disappointment of the movie studios, the trial will be fought out without mentioning words such as piracy, theft and stealing. As reported before the weekend, the MPAA and its witnesses are banned from using such pejorative terms during the proceedings.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and VPN services.

TorrentFreak: FilesTube Search Engine First to Smash 10 Million DMCA Notice Barrier

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Andy. Original post: at TorrentFreak

Google’s popularity means that it is one of the first places users turn to when they’re trying to find content online. That also includes unauthorized content, and as a result Google receives endless notices from copyright holders to remove infringing URLs from its listings.

Even as a content-less search engine, Google is held responsible for everyone else’s infringing behavior, but they’re not on their own. Specialist search engines that focus on indexing content on other sites are also subjected to takedowns, but in the last couple of years the trend has been to hit Google’s index of those sites’ links too.

One such site is FilesTube, a search engine dedicated to indexing content found on the biggest file-hosting sites with public sharing capabilities such as Rapidgator, 4Shared and Uploaded. These sites host large quantities of unauthorized content uploaded by their users, so FilesTube has become popular with those looking for TV shows, movies, music, apps and just about any other content one can imagine.

FilesTube, a site founded back in 2007, reportedly responds to DMCA notices, but Google nevertheless gets hammered with requests from copyright holders to de-list FilesTube URLs.

“During the last year Google disabled access to 389,512 FilesTube links,” we wrote in May 2012 when FilesTube first topped the takedown charts. The situation today has developed out of all proportion.

This week, Google received its 10 millionth takedown notice for FilesTube, the vast majority of them received in the last calender year. During the past four months there hasn’t been a week with fewer than 130,000 takedowns and at times as many as 460,000 were issued.

FilesTube

The total of 10,074,633 URLs dwarfs its nearest ‘rival’ ZippyShare which takes the current second place spot with ‘only’ 5,914,229 URLs.

As can be see from the image above, FilesTube’s number one ‘enemy’ is the music industry. The BPI and RIAA have together de-indexed close to six million of the search engine’s URLs. In third, fourth and fifth position are Fox (TV/movies), anti-piracy group MarkMonitor (various industries), and Takedown Piracy (adult content).

Overall, 3,838 copyright holders and 1,270 reporting organizations have issued notices to Google about FilesTube, something which has put the site at odds with the entertainment industry.

In June 2011, FilesTube took on a new domain after it was blocked by ISPs in Malaysia on copyright grounds. By the end of October 2013, FilesTube was also censored in the UK after the music industry obtained a High Court injunction against six of the country’s top ISPs.

In the past few weeks FilesTube took the decision to dump its .com domain. The site can now be found on the more anonymous FilesTube.to. No reason was given for the switch but whereas the site was previously blocked in the UK, it is now available again through ISPs including Virgin Media.

There are also some other interesting developments underway. FilesTube has long insisted that it’s a search engine just like Google, in that it carries none of its own content and responds to takedown notices. FilesTube has been happy in the past to allow searches for specific file types (AVI, MP3, MKV etc) and lists popular user-generated searches on its main page, but really hasn’t gone any further. Until now….

FilesTube2

The above image is part of a survey being carried out by FilesTube (link at top of the main page) in which they ask the user “Imagine that you’re searching for your favorite TV series on FilesTube. Will the detailed search results page be useful for you?” The suggestion is that a page like this, giving details of TV shows alongside links to pirated content, could be implemented if users want it.

Of course, this goes way beyond the actions of a search engine “like Google” but with FilesTube being treated harshly by copyright holders anyway, one has to wonder whether the company has now given up trying to please them.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and VPN services.

TorrentFreak: U.S. Government Caught Pirating Military Software, Settles For $50 Million

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ernesto. Original post: at TorrentFreak

mil-pirateIn recent years the U.S. Government has taken an aggressive stance towards copyright infringement, both at home and abroad.

“Piracy is theft, clean and simple,” Vice President Joe Biden said when he announced the Joint Strategic Plan to combat intellectual property theft.

However, at the same time the Vice President was launching the new anti-piracy strategy, software company Apptricity was involved in a multi-million dollar piracy dispute with the Government.

In 2004 Apptricity signed a contract with the U.S. Army to license enterprise software that manages troop and supply movements. The deal allowed the Government to use the software on five servers and 150 standalone devices, and since then it has been used in critical missions all over the world.

“The Army has used Apptricity’s integrated transportation logistics and asset management software across the Middle East and other theaters of operation. The Army has also used the software to coordinate emergency management initiatives, including efforts following the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti,” the company explains.

While Apptricity was happy to have the Government as a client, the company was shocked to find out that the army had secretly installed thousands of unlicensed copies of the software. This unauthorized use was discovered by accident during Strategic Capabilities Planning 2009, when the U.S. Army Program Director stated that thousands of devices used Apptricity software.

As it turned out, the army had installed pirated copies of the software on 93 servers and more than 9,000 standalone devices. With license fees of $1.35 million per server and $5,000 per device, Apptricity calculated that the Government owed the company $224 million in unpaid fees.

To recoup the missing revenue the software company filed a lawsuit at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. It accused the Government of willful copyright infringement, while actively concealing these infringements from Apptricity.

“The Government knew or should have known that it was required to obtain a license for copying Apptricity software onto each of the servers and devices,” the company told the court, demanding a minimum of $224,543,420.80 in damages, an amount equal to the shortfall in license revenue.

The Government eventually admitted that it used many copies of the software without permission, and after lengthy negotiations both parties have now decided to settle the case.

“After Alternative Dispute Resolution proceedings, the parties agreed to settle for $50 million. The figure represents a fraction of the software’s negotiated contract value that provides a material quantity of server and device licenses for ongoing and future Department of Defense usage,” Apptricity just announced.

Despite the copyright dispute, Apptricity expects that it will continue its business relationship with the U.S. military.

“Now that this process is behind us, it is envisioned the Apptricity and Army relationship will continue to grow exponentially,” says Tim McHale, an Apptricity senior adviser and retired major-general.

The Obama administration has yet to comment on the settlement but if a statement is forthcoming it will be almost certainly be less vocal on the piracy front, especially since the Government now finds itself on the other side of the fence.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and VPN services.

TorrentFreak: ISPs Can Be Required to Block Access to Pirate Sites, EU Court Hears

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Andy. Original post: at TorrentFreak

stop-blockedNotorious movie and TV show streaming site Kino.to has long since closed and its operators punished, but its legacy lives on in the legal realm.

The current dispute involves Austrian ISP UPC Telekabel Wien and movie companies Constantin Film Verleih and Wega Filmproduktionsgesellschaft. The film companies complained that the ISP was providing its subscribers with access to Kino.to which enabled them to access their copyrighted material without permission.

Interim injunctions were granted in the movie companies’ favor which required the ISP to block the site. However, the Austrian Supreme Court later issued a request to the Court of Justice to clarify whether a provider that provides Internet access to those using an illegal website were to be regarded as an intermediary, in the same way that the host of an illegal site might.

In his opinion handed down today, Advocate General Pedro Cruz Villalón said that the ISP of a user accessing a website said to be infringing copyright should also be regarded as an intermediary whose services are used by a third party, such as the operator of an infringing website.

This means that the ISP of an infringing site user can be subjected to a blocking injunction, as long as it contain specifics on the technicalities.

“The Advocate General is of the view that it is incompatible with the weighing of the fundamental rights of the parties [freedom of information, freedom to do business, copyright protection] to prohibit an internet service provider generally and without ordering specific measures from allowing its customers to access a particular website that infringes copyright,” the opinion reads.

“However, a specific blocking measure imposed on a provider relating to a specific website is not, in principle, disproportionate only because it entails not inconsiderable costs but can easily be circumvented without any special technical knowledge. It is for the national courts, in the particular case, taking into account all relevant circumstances, to weigh the fundamental rights of the parties against each other and thus strike a fair balance between those fundamental rights,” the adviser notes.

The Advocate General also notes that operators of piracy-related websites and their hosts often base themselves outside Europe or take steps to mask their identities. This, he says, makes it difficult to bring cases before the courts. Nevertheless, whenever possible rightsholders must first issue claims directly against site operators or their providers.

The legal opinion is not legally binding and the Court of Justice is entitled to disregard it, but the Court often follows the AG’s advice in such cases. Deliberations in the Kino.to case are just beginning and a judgment will be handed down at a later date.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and VPN services.

TorrentFreak: Kim Dotcom Links €20,000 Wikileaks Donation to Megaupload Raid

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ernesto. Original post: at TorrentFreak

dotcombookFew people would disagree that Kim Dotcom is a fascinating man. After his file-sharing service Megaupload was raided early 2012, Kim Dotcom became an instant Internet celebrity.

The success and controversy surrounding Megaupload as well as Dotcom’s personal life in the years leading up to the raid are now detailed in a biography.

Written by David Fisher, “The Secret Life of Kim Dotcom – Spies, Lies and the War for the Internet” reveals intimate family details, but it also provides additional details on Dotcom’s perception of the Megaupload raid, and how the entertainment industry dealt with the site before it was taken down.

Some of these details are being published for the first time, including Kim Dotcom’s suspicions that his support for Wikileaks was one of the main reasons for the U.S. Government to go after him.

In the book Dotcom explains that he donated €20,000 to Wikileaks after the Collateral Murder video came out early 2010. It’s a controversial allegation, but Dotcom believes that it is no coincidence that the prosecutor who investigated Julian Assange was also appointed to the Megaupload case.

The passage below is taken directly from the book, with permission from the publisher.

The Wikileaks Connection

Dotcom believes one of the reasons he was targeted was his support for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. He says he was compelled to reach out to the site after US soldier Bradley Manning leaked documents to it. The infamous video recording of the Apache gunship gunning down a group of Iraqis (some of whom, despite widespread belief to the contrary, were later revealed to have been armed), including two Reuters journalists, was the trigger.

“Wow, this is really crazy,” Dotcom recalls thinking, watching the black-and-white footage and hearing the operators of the helicopter chat about firing on the group. He made a €20,000 donation to Wikileaks through Megaupload’s UK account. “That was one of the largest donations they got,” he says. According to Dotcom, the US, at the time, was monitoring Wikileaks and trying better to understand its support base. “My name must have popped right up.”

The combination of a leaking culture and a website dedicated to producing leaked material would horrify the US government, he says. A willing leaker and a platform on which to do it was “their biggest enemy and their biggest fear . . . If you are in a corrupt government and you know how much fishy stuff is going on in the background, to you, that is the biggest threat — to have a site where people can anonymously submit documents.”

Neil MacBride was appointed to the Wikileaks case, meaning Dotcom shares prosecutors with Assange. “I think the Wikileaks connection got me on the radar.”

Dotcom believes the US was most scared of the threat of inspiration Wikileaks posed. He also believes it shows just how many secrets the US has hidden from the public and the rest of the world. “That’s why they are going after that so hard. Only a full transparent government will have no corruption and no back door deals or secret organisations or secret agreements. The US is the complete opposite of that. It is really difficult to get any information in the US, so whistleblowing is the one way you can get to information and provide information to the public.”

The book doesn’t offer more details to substantiate Dotcom’s claims, but it’s clear that the New Zealand entrepreneur sees Megaupload’s takedown as more than just “a favor” to Hollywood and the major record labels.

In addition to the Wikileaks angle the book also describes tense pre-raid relationships between Megaupload and various copyright holders. As Dotcom previously told TorrentFreak, several players in the entertainment industry, including Disney, were eager to partner with the file-sharing empire.

On the other hand, however, the major record labels and Hollywood also actively frustrated attempts by Dotcom to license content for his Megabox and Megamovie ventures. The passage below describes the tense relationship in detail.

Tense Relationships With Big Content

While Hollywood executives railed against the company in public, they were privately finding ways to engage with the business. There were emails from studios, looking for ways to work with Megaupload that would see their content hosted on the website. “Disney proposed to us a contract of co-operation where there were some conditions in there we simply couldn’t accept. They wanted to use us as a distribution platform (but) they just had completely bizarre ideas of how that would work. They would basically take control of the whole process.”

Ideas from the studios included allowing old or little-known new content to find its own life on Megaupload. The old content could be linked to new content which would be paid for, while new artists with low public profile would be able to build a fan base through viral appeal. “For us it was bizarre, on the one hand, they were like wanting to do something with us and being nice and thanking us for all the co-operation. You would never think they would go and try and start criminal action against us.”

Dotcom said he struggled to understand why Hollywood and the record Industry Association of America spent so much effort on attack when there were easier ways to manage the evolution of copyright on the internet. An outlay of up to $2 million would fund the development of a call centre — he suggested India or the Philippines. “You employ say 50 to 100 people, and you train them to look for infringing links all over the internet.” The centre would develop search skills ranging from the ubiquitous google to sites dedicated to infringing content. He said with the funding of “a relatively small investment” and the use of available tools like the Digital Millennium copyright Act “they could have sorted this piracy problem out”.

In the months leading up to the destruction of Megaupload, there was a growing friction between it and the copyright industry. Megaupload was bigger and bolder than ever, talking of new business plans which cut across territory considered by the copyright industry to be traditionally theirs. One of those ventures was MegaMovie, intended to be an online database of films. There was also MegaBox, the proposed music site which would allow users to buy tracks from popular artists — but also allow artists to sell directly to the public.

“I was having meetings with Hollywood producers trying to establish communication and trying to work with them. I wanted to license content for MegaBox from the music labels.”For each move Dotcom made, the copyright industry would make another to head him off. When Megaupload agreed a deal with a company which held the database of cover art for CDs, the deal was sunk by the recording industry. “They stopped us from becoming a proper licensor of their content and their cover art. They didn’t even allow us to become a partner.”

While Hollywood was keeping the eager Mega team at arm’s length, Dotcom could only see common sense in some sort of deal. He wanted to turn the infringing links into an opportunity to make money, diverting traffic attempting to download infringing material to an MPAA-approved website where they could buy it. “We had great ideas for them,” said Dotcom. “So let’s say Hollywood identifies the Terminator 2 movie. Their team has taken it down from Megaupload. By providing us with a content ID . . . we know what it was and we link to the site where they sell it legitimately. They weren’t interested in that — can you believe that? We were going to give them so much traffic so they could sell this stuff and they didn’t do it.”

Perhaps one of the reasons why Hollywood and the RIAA kept Megaupload at a distance is because they knew what was coming. Not much later Megaupload was raided, effectively destroying a multi-million dollar empire.

The above are just a few highlights from the book, which is well worth a read for those who want to know more about Dotcom’s life. While the book doesn’t delve deeply into some of the more controversial issues, it is a fascinating read.

“The Secret Life of Kim Dotcom – Spies, Lies and the War for the Internet” is available for sale here, and an Ebook version is available on Amazon.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and VPN services.

TorrentFreak: Why Even Doctor Who Has Trouble Following Copyright

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ben Jones. Original post: at TorrentFreak

doctorwhoLast month, a post on Slashdot suggested that the early episodes of Dr Who will soon fall into the public domain.

But in copyright nothing is ever so simple. In fact, even a TimeLord’s brain, capable of dealing with the intricacies of time and space, would find it a complex subject.

At the heart of the assertion is that in the New Year the first episodes of Dr Who will fall into the public domain. However, the reality isn’t as clear-cut as it seems. While the broadcast copyright will expire, the other copyrights in the episode will still exist. This means that the broadcast may well fall into the public domain but the episode itself won’t.

Under the UK’s 1956 Copyright Act, broadcast copyright expires 50 years from the end of the year when a show was first broadcast. This means that the first six episodes (the four comprising An Unearthly Child – the first story – as well as the first two of the seven episodes in The Daleks) will expire 50 years from the end of 1963, on January 1 2014.

However, the episode as a whole won’t be in the public domain. That’s a whole lot more complex.

Copyrights for the episodes themselves expire at the end of the year that is 70 years after the death of the following persons, whichever comes last:

- The principal director
- The author of the screenplay
- The author of the dialog, or
- The composer of music specially created for and used in the film

Since the director of the first four episodes, Waris Hussein, is still alive, the 70 year clock hasn’t even started. Likewise, Christopher Barry, the director of the majority of the Dalek’s episodes, is also still alive. So we’re looking at 1 January 2085 as a realistic earliest date (assuming neither die in the next month, and they’re the last surviving).

Legal blogger William Tovey has done some investigation on the topic and found that the earliest definitive date an episode drops into the public domain will be The Aztecs (the sixth story of season 1) in 2083. However, if (still living) script-editor Donald Tosh didn’t contribute to the dialogue, then The Time Meddler (season 2, story 9) will beat it into the public domain in 2057, followed by The Smugglers (season 4 opener) in 2068.

And this is where even the Gallifreyan brain goes crazy.

Ninety-four years before the first Doctor Who episode drops into the public domain in the UK is just nuts, and that’s not the actual first episode. That will have been under copyright for at least 130 years before entering the public domain. And this all depends on the term not being extended again.

Worse, this is only for the UK. Copyrights in every other country will be calculated using their own systems and timescales, and one is left with the belief that the real reason time travel was invented concerned perpetual copyright.

So while people in the UK will be able to share the broadcasts come January 1, in order to do anything more they’ll need to wait at least 45 years, while people in other countries will have to run the gauntlet of their own local copyright laws.

The complexity and extended term length is enough to drive anyone interested in honesty and fairness crazy. It’s a no-brainer to suggest that a paragon of virtue like the Doctor, more interested in doing right than following the letter of the law, would have real trouble following copyright law as it’s currently written around the world.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and VPN services.

TorrentFreak: Amazon to Lawmakers: Keep the Internet Open & Limit Copyright Excesses

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Andy. Original post: at TorrentFreak

representativesA hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet has heard opinions from leading content providers and technology advocates on how best to progress online digital distribution.

The Rise of Innovative Business Models: Content Delivery Methods in the Digital Age heard testimony from Amazon, the MPAA, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and PreEmptive Solutions, an anti-piracy and reverse engineering mitigation company.

John McCoskey, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at the Motion Picture Association of America, began with an overview of how video content is currently being consumed. No longer are people simply sat in a theater or in front of a TV.

“Nearly 42 million homes in the United States now have any number of Internet-connected media devices, including game consoles, smart TVs, and online set-top boxes. More than 90 legitimate online services are already enabling those homes to download or stream movies and TV shows, offering a service for every type of content consumer out there,” McCoskey said.

mpaa-logoHe went on to speak of MPAA member companies embracing portability and flexibility so that viewers can “watch what they want, when they want, where they want.”

This innovation, McCoskey said, is a testament to a robust copyright regime that encourages the creation and delivery of content, adding that working together to crack down on infringement will be of benefit to all.

“We all share a responsibility to curb abusive practices online that stunt investment in content, hurt the rapidly evolving digital marketplace, and harm the interests of consumers who benefit from these innovations. That means finding ways of working together in good faith on voluntary solutions where everyone shares in the responsibility of creating a healthy digital marketplace for the exchange of ideas, goods, and services; one that promotes creativity, investment, innovation, and job creation,” McCoskey explained.

Also speaking at the hearing was Paul Misener, Amazon.com’s Vice President for Global Public Policy. He began with a brief history of his company and how it has developed from an Internet-based distributor of physical goods into one increasingly supplying digital products online.

“The content is the same, of course: digital bits that, once delivered, various electronic devices can convert into text, sounds, and images. And so our digital delivery business today is a natural continuation of our origins as a place where customers can find and discover content they want to buy online,” Misener said.

amazonIn common with the MPAA, Misener said that Amazon also recognizes the importance of supplying content for consumption on a wide range of platforms, but unlike their movie industry counterparts the company had a warning concerning unnecessarily tough copyright law and punishing damages for infringement.

“The risk of exorbitant statutory damage awards that the current system allows could chill the development of new products and services designed to help consumers enjoy copyrighted works,” Misener said.

“It may make sense to limit the availability of statutory damages in certain situations, such as where the defendant acted with a good faith belief that its use of copyrighted works was non-infringing or fair, or where the outcome turns on a novel question of law.”

After noting that digital music distributors have to negotiate a tough path to offering official content due to the lack of centralized information on music creators/publishers and no system for blanket licensing, Misener moved onto perhaps the most important issue of all – the preservation of the Internet itself.

“Continued growth and innovation in digital content delivery assumes that the Internet will remain a non-discriminatory, open platform, where bits are bits and arbitrary limits do not
inhibit consumer access to content. Consumer choice, without impairment, must be preserved,” Misener concluded.

The importance of giving customers what they want was later underlined by David Sohn, General Counsel and Director at the Center for Democracy & Technology. The success of iTunes proves that it is indeed possible to “compete with free” as long as services offer great choice and are easy to use. Failure to do so, Sohn said, can result in consumers making other choices.

CDT“If lawful services fail to give consumers what they want, when they want it, unlawful sources will be out there, waiting to fill the gaps and satisfy the unmet demand.

“In a world in which information technology has made incredibly powerful tools for copying and disseminating data cheap and ubiquitous, no amount of wishing and no enforcement strategy will be able to fully eliminate unlawful sources of copyrighted material,” Sohn warned.

When considering reform of copyright law, Sohn said that Congress should keep in mind that the best defense against widespread infringement is via a “robust and evolving content marketplace” that satisfies consumer demand via convenient and attractive alternatives to piracy.

The key to that, he said, is by recognizing the importance of existing innovation-boosting elements in current law – the safe-harbor provisions of the DMCA, the “Sony doctrine” concerning products with substantial non-infringing uses, and fair use.

“Continued innovation and development in the online content marketplace would suffer greatly if Congress were to narrow or otherwise undermine any of these three legal principles,” Sohn said.

With technology companies and advocates recommending a softening of statutory damages while maintaining safe harbor and the expansion of fair use, the MPAA and other entertainment companies are again finding themselves at odds with their potential distribution partners. Bridging that gap will be an important challenge in the months and years to come.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and VPN services.

TorrentFreak: MPAA and RIAA Urge Government to Keep High Fines for Copyright Infringers

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ernesto. Original post: at TorrentFreak

pirate-runningWhen copyright holders go to court in the United States they have the option to demand statutory damages in addition to the actual losses they have suffered.

Depending on the severity of the offense, these damages can reach $150,000 per infringement.

In 2009 Jammie Thomas-Rasset learned about these massive fines the hard way when she was fined $1,920,000 for sharing 24 songs online, an amount that was eventually reduced to $220,000 after several appeals. In a similar case, Boston student Joel Tenenbaum was ordered to pay $675,000 for sharing 30 songs.

Fines of this magnitude are often viewed by the public as disproportionate, but copyright holders argue that they are needed to deter the public from engaging in unauthorized file-sharing.

In court, the Obama administration sided with copyright holders earlier this year. However, in its recent Green Paper the Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force suggests that the current limits may need an update.

“Much public attention has focused on the size of the awards in the two infringement cases against individual file sharers that have gone to trial,” the Task Force wrote.

“These cases have led to calls for further calibration of levels of statutory damages. The Task Force reiterates the importance of statutory damages in online copyright enforcement, but believes that there are certain areas where recalibration of their scope may be appropriate.”

The Internet Policy Task Force asked the public to share their thoughts on this, and several other copyright related issues that were addressed in the paper. The comments, which have now been made public, include several from copyright industry groups such as the MPAA and RIAA in which they advise the Government not to lower the maximum fines.

The MPAA argues that the current Internet landscape doesn’t warrant a policy change.

“While we understand the concerns giving rise to the discussion around statutory damages in the Green Paper, the MPAA does not believe the experience in practice supports altering the existing regime, which has fostered investment and innovation not just in the production of content but also with respect to applications, devices and other digital technologies.”

The movie group says that P2P file-sharing, cyberlockers and streaming sites remain a massive threat to the industry and since it’s not always possible to accurately calculate the losses that are generated by piracy, statutory damages are helpful to come to a sizable punishment.

“Statutory damages play an essential role in redressing the financial harm caused by such infringement and punishing the wrongdoers. But, perhaps most importantly, statutory damages deter others from engaging in similar misconduct, advancing the societal goal of promoting innovation and creativity,” MPAA writes.

The studios don’t fear disproportionate fines and are confident that juries will eventually decide on an amount that is fitting in each case.

“The MPAA is confident that juries will continue to award statutory damages only in appropriate cases, in appropriate amounts, taking into consideration all salient factors, to serve the public interest.”

The RIAA also submitted their comments in response to the Internet Policy Task Force paper. In line with the MPAA the music group sees no reason to change the current policy, and says that “proper consequences” are needed in response to copyright infringement.

“We do not believe that recalibration of statutory damages is appropriate,” RIAA writes.

“Statutory damages must be meaningful, serving as a deterrent beyond mere restitution. And the law recognizes the need for flexibility within this statutory damages construct, and provides juries with wide discretion to determine the appropriate award,” RIAA adds.

The RIAA adds that in the Thomas and Tenenbaum cases the Appeal courts held that the “damage awards were entirely appropriate, based on the facts of each case.”

The music group does say that it’s open to discussing alternatives to statutory damages, as long as the deterrent function of the punishments for copyright infringement remain a core issue.

Besides copyright holders, there were also many comments from civil rights groups, copyright experts and the public that argued against high penalties. Copyright lawyer Andrew Bridges, for example, highlights that a potential $150,000 fine per shared file is ammunition for “predatory” copyright trolls such as Prenda and Righthaven.

“The current structure of statutory damages gives Predatory Enforcers (PEs) the weapons they need to extract significant settlements from accused infringers without regard to the truth of their allegations or the harm of the alleged infringing, just as Righthaven and Prenda did,” Bridges writes.

“One need only allege that there was copying in order to seek a subpoena unmasking anonymous online defendants, at which point PEs can send letters threatening maximum damages of up to $150,000 per infringed work and extract settlements without proving infringement, much less any harm.”

According to Bridges the Government may want to follow the example of Canada, where statutory damages for non-commercial file-sharing were reduced to an amount of between $100 and $5,000 per offense.

All comments in response to the Green Paper have been published on the Internet Policy Task Force website. The issue of statutory damages, as well as many related subjects, will be discussed during a public meeting on December 12 and will be followed by another round of comments.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and VPN services.

TorrentFreak: Defending the ‘Little Guy’ from Bogus DMCA Takedown Bullies

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Andy. Original post: at TorrentFreak

deanoThere can be no doubt that copyright holders have a huge task ahead of them if they are to make even the slightest dent in the availability of unauthorized online content. Google has received more than 200 million notices this year alone and it’s still a breeze to obtain almost anything within a few minutes.

In an operation of this scale mistakes will be made and we’ve seen on dozens of occasions how content has been taken down wrongfully. But while Google is increasingly sharp when it comes to rejecting false claims against its search listings, the same cannot be said about its approach to YouTube where the playing field is much more tricky.

While it can be easy to see that a link to a blockbuster movie or music album might be unlawful, judging whether each and every video uploaded to YouTube is legal would amount to a full-time job for hundreds of lawyers, something that is simply not realistic. Due to these limitations illegal content is uploaded every day, while at the same time companies exploit the situation to silence their critics.

Dean Salter is a regular guy. He loves football, lives in Essex (UK) and has a passion for video games. Together with a few friends he spends his spare time creating videos for their Game Over Man podcast on YouTube, a non-monetized video gaming channel put up there purely for fun and the enjoyment of others.

GameOver

“We don’t have a dedicated audience of any sort, we just enjoy the idea of meeting up, discussing our opinions and excitements within the gaming world, record these discussions and then upload them to iTunes and release them on to the internet to who ever happens to stumble across them, free of charge of course,” he says.

Just recently Dean made a video about Infestation: Survivor Stories, a zombie survival game previously titled The War Z that was renamed after receiving negative reviews. Dean’s video review, which is pretty damn funny if a little unconventional, went up on YouTube. Here it is, well worth a couple of minutes viewing to appreciate the context of what follows.

Anything illegal there? Absolutely not. But of course, the fact that it’s hosted in Vimeo Dailymotion pretty much predicts what has happened here. Following a copyright complaint from Hammerpoint Interactive, the company behind the game, the video has been taken down.

HAmmer DMCA

As readers will recall, last month famous game reviewer TotalBiscuit suffered a similar fate when Wild Games Studio censored his critical video of their game Day One: Garry’s Incident.

Commenting on his own woes, TotalBiscuit encapsulated the dilemma of users with less visibility than himself.

“I’ve gotta be honest, I am fortunate, my channel is large as is my following. I am backed by a great network with a lot of resources,” he said. “I can get my voice heard but what about the smaller channels that can’t?

TotalBiscuit’s problems were indeed widely covered in the press (after all, he has more than 1.3 million YouTube subscribers). Dean and his friends have only 66 subscribers, which is probably why they’re currently struggling to get the interest of the gaming press.

Also, the channel’s relative obscurity makes the perfect environment for the censors since after silencing it no one will care.

Wrong.

The entire point of sites like YouTube, the whole user-generated content movement, and even the Internet itself, is that anyone can have their voice heard. TotalBiscuit once had 66 subscribers, YouTube once had 66 subscribers and so did Google. Everyone has to start somewhere and abusing a law to bully someone offline and take their voice away is something that no company should be allowed to get away with.

Dean is currently awaiting a response from YouTube and Hammerpoint Interactive, whose awful website provides no contact details whatsoever. Let’s see what excuses they can come up with this time.

Update: The Vimeo video was taken down as well and it’s now hosted on Dailymotion.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and VPN services.